Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia (Spanish: Misión San Luis Rey de Francia) is a former Spanish mission in San Luis Rey, a neighborhood of Oceanside, California. This Mission lent its name to the Luiseño tribe of Mission Indians.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in July 2022
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is located in California
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
Location in California
Location4050 Mission Ave.
Oceanside, California 92057 USA
Coordinates33°13′57″N 117°19′13″W / 33.23250°N 117.32028°W / 33.23250; -117.32028
Name as foundedLa Misión de San Luis, Rey de Francia [1]
English translationThe Mission of Saint Louis, King of France
PatronLouis IX of France[2]
Nickname(s)"King of the Missions" [3]
Founding dateJune 13, 1798[4]
Founding priest(s)Father Fermín de Lasuén [5]
Area35 acres (14 ha)
Architectural style(s)Spanish Colonial
Founding OrderEighteenth [2]
Military districtFirst (El Presidio Reál de San Diego) [6][7]
Native tribe(s)
Spanish name(s)
Kumeyaay, Quechnajuichom
Luiseño & Diegueño 'Mission Indians'
Native place name(s)QuenchaQuechla [8][9]
Baptisms5,399 [10]
Marriages1,335 [10]
Burials2,718 [10]
Neophyte population2,788 [11][12]
Secularized1834 [2]
Returned to the Church1865 [2]
Governing bodyRoman Catholic Diocese of San Diego
Current useParish/Museum/Cemetery/Retreat House
Official name: San Luis Rey Mission Church
DesignatedApril 15, 1970[13]
Reference no.70000142[13]
DesignatedApril 15, 1970[14]
Reference no.#239

At its prime, Mission San Luis Rey's structures and services compound covered almost 950,400 acres (384,600 ha), making it the largest of the Californian missions, along with its surrounding agricultural land.[15] Multiple outposts were built in support of Mission San Luis Rey and placed under its supervision, including San Antonio de Pala Asistencia in 1816 and Las Flores Estancia in 1823.

Spanish era

Antonio Peyrí was the padre in charge of Mission San Luis Rey from 1799 to 1833.

The full name of the mission is La Misión de San Luis, Rey de Francia (The Mission of Saint Louis, King of France). It was named for King Louis IX of France.[1][2] Its nickname is "King of the Missions".[3] It was founded by padre Fermín Lasuén on June 12, 1798, the eighteenth of the twenty-one Spanish missions built in the Alta California Province of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.[2][4][5]

The current church, built in 1815, is the third church on this location.[16] It is a National Historic Landmark, for its pristine example of a Spanish mission church complex.[14][17][18] Today the mission complex functions as a parish church of the Diocese of San Diego as well as a museum and retreat center. Mission San Luis Rey De Francia raised about 26,000 cattle as well as goats, geese, and pigs.

An early account of life at the Mission was written by one of its Native American converts, Luiseño Pablo Tac, in his work Indian Life and Customs at Mission San Luis Rey: A Record of California Mission Life by Pablo Tac, An Indian Neophyte (written c. 1835 in Rome, later edited and translated in 1958 by Minna Hewes and Gordon Hewes).[19] In his book, Tac lamented the rapid population decline of his Luiseño people after the founding of the mission:

In Quechla not long ago there were 5,000 souls, with all their neighboring lands. Through a sickness that came to California, 2,000 souls died, and 3,000 were left.[9]

The Mission-born, Franciscan-educated Tac wrote that his people initially attempted to bar the Spaniards from invading their Southern California lands. Pablo Tac went on to describe the preferential conditions and treatment the padres received:

In the mission of San Luis Rey de Francia the Fernandino [sic] father is like a king. He has his pages, alcaldes, majordomos, musicians, soldiers, gardens, ranchos, livestock....[20]

Mexican era

Luiseños refusing to work for Captain Pablo de la Portillà in 1835.

The first Peruvian Pepper Tree (Schinus molle) in California was planted here in 1830, now iconic, widely planted, and renamed the California Pepper tree in the state. After the Mexican secularization act of 1833 much of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia land was sold off. Indigenous peoples, previously forced to work on missions, were freed from direct subjugation in the mission system through this act. When Native people at San Luis Rey learned of their impending freedom, they proclaimed together: "We are free! We do not want to obey! We do not want to work!" and left the mission by the thousands, returning to their rural communities "which in some cases their forebears had left two generations earlier."[21]

During the Mexican–American War in Alta California (1846–1847), the Mission was utilized as a military outpost by the United States Army.[15] In July 1847, U.S. military governor of California Richard Barnes Mason created an Indian sub-agency at Mission San Luis Rey, and his men took charge of the mission property in August, appointing Jesse Hunter from the recently arrived Mormon Battalion as sub-agent. Battalion guide Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the Native American Shoshone child of Sacagawea who had traveled with the Lewis and Clark Expedition forty years earlier, was appointed by Mason as the Alcalde "within the District of San Diego, at or near San Luis Rey" in November 1847. Charbonneau resigned from the post in August, 1848, claiming that "because of his Indian heritage others thought him biased when problems arose between the Indians and the other inhabitants of the district."[22]

American era

The courtyard of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, with the first Peruvian Pepper Tree (Schinus molle) planted in California in 1830, visible behind the arch.[15]

With secularization of the mission in 1834, no religious services were held and the Luiseño were left behind by the fleeing Franciscan padres. The Mission's religious services restarted in 1893, when two Mexican priests were given permission to restore the Mission as a Franciscan college.[15] Father Joseph O'Keefe was assigned as an interpreter for the monks. It was he who began to restore the old Mission in 1895. The cuadrángulo (quadrangle) and church were completed in 1905. San Luis Rey College was opened as a seminary in 1950, but closed in 1969.

Episodes 2, 3, 4 and 12 of the Disney-produced Zorro TV series include scenes filmed in 1957 at San Luis Rey,[23] which doubled for the Mission of San Gabriel. Disney added a skull and crossbones to the cemetery entrance.

In 1998, Gilbert Levine led members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and, with the special permission of Pope John Paul II, the ancient Cappella Giulia Choir of St. Peter's Basilica, the first-ever visit of this 500-year-old choir to the Western Hemisphere, in a series of concerts to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the mission, broadcast on NPR's Performance Today. In February 2013, the seismic retrofitting was completed.[24]

Today, Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is a working mission, cared for by the people who belong to the parish, with ongoing restoration projects. Mission San Luis Rey has a Museum, Visitors' Center, Retreat Center,[25] gardens with the historic Pepper Tree, and the original small cemetery.[26][27][28]

See also

The courtyard of the mission
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia as it appeared in 1986. In 1841, French explorer Eugene Duflot de Mofras produced a sketch of the Mission that depicted a second belfry, thereby supporting the theory that two bell towers were planned, but never completed; the lone tower was also used as a lookout post.[29]
Old Cemetery - founded in 1798


  1. ^ a b Leffingwell, p. 27
  2. ^ a b c d e f Krell, p. 273
  3. ^ a b Yenne, p. 158
  4. ^ a b Yenne, p. 156
  5. ^ a b Ruscin, p. 196
  6. ^ Forbes, p. 202
  7. ^ Engelhardt, San Diego Mission, pp. v, 228 "The military district of San Diego embraced the Missions of San Diego, San Luis Rey, San Juan Capistrano, and San Gabriel."
  8. ^ Ruscin, p. 195
  9. ^ a b Lightfoot, p. 108
  10. ^ a b c Krell, p. 315: as of December 31, 1832; information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California.
  11. ^ Krell, p. 315: as of December 31, 1832; information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California. Mission San Luis Rey was by far the most dominant of the Alta California missions at this time in terms of the number of neophytes attached to it.
  12. ^ Johnson, et al.: "In contrast to baptismal patterns documented at missions in much of the rest of California, Mission San Luis Rey appears to have coexisted with nearby native communities for a much longer period of time without fully absorbing their populations...This may be the result of a conscious decision by the head missionary at Mission San Luis Rey, Fr. Antonio Peyri, to permit a certain number of baptized Luiseños to remain living apart from the mission with their unconverted relatives at their rancherías [villages]. The native communities in this way gradually became converted into mission ranchos at Santa Margarita, Las Flores, Las Pulgas, San Jacinto, Temecula, Pala, etc."
  13. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  14. ^ a b "San Luis Rey Mission Church". National Historic Landmark Quicklinks. National Park Service. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  15. ^ a b c d Young, p. 18
  16. ^ "San Luis Rey Mission Church". National Historic Landmarks Program. National Park Service. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  17. ^ Snell, Charles (1968). "San Luis Key Mission Church" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places – Inventory Nomination Form. National Park Service. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  18. ^ "San Luis Key Mission Church" (pdf). Photographs. National Park Service. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  19. ^ The earliest surviving first-person writings by a native Californian of life in a mission is by Pablo Tac (1822–1841), a Luiseño from Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. Christian Clifford, author of Meet Pablo Tac, wrote "On January 15, 1834, Father Peyrí, Pablo, and Agapito left San Fernando College [Mexico City] and in February boarded a ship for Europe. They travelled via New York and France, arriving in Barcelona, Spain, on June 21. The 'New' World was coming to meet the 'Old' World." (p.33) Tac arrived in Rome in September 1834 and was enrolled in the College of the Propaganda, studying Latin grammar. He went on to study rhetoric, humanities, and philosophy in preparation for missionary work. It was while at the College that he created Luiseño written language and wrote the "Conversion of the San Luiseños of Alta California." Clifford, Christian (2017). Meet Pablo Tac: Indian from the Far Shores of California. CreateSpace, North Charleston, SC. ISBN 978-1-5425-2930-3.
  20. ^ Lightfoot, p. 105
  21. ^ Haas, Lisbeth (1996). Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769-1936. University of California Press. p. 38. ISBN 9780520207042.
  22. ^ Reading, Mrs. James (June 1965). "Jean Baptiste Charbonneau: The Wind River Scout". The Journal of San Diego History. 11 (2).
  23. ^ Adam Bradley (September 10, 2018). "Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia: Where Hollywood filmed early movies, TV shows". The Coast News. Retrieved April 4, 2024.
  24. ^ Neuman, Charlie (February 6, 2013). "Mission San Luis Rey's Earthquake Retrofit". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  25. ^ "Meeting & Retreat Facilities - Retreat Center of Old Mission San Luis Rey".
  26. ^ Schlesinger, Nancy (October 29, 1992). "Cemeteries Alive With History". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  27. ^ "Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia". Old Mission San Luis Rey. 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  28. ^ Old Mission San Luis Rey Cemetery
  29. ^ Krell, pp. 275–276